As my head hits the pillow I see it. In the corner, where the skirting board’s chipped. A small metal loop like the ones on a tin can.
Ryan won’t wake until morning. The baby monitor’s on my bedside table.
Bare feet against floorboards. Quiet. Ryan could sleep through an earthquake but Eddie’s a hard wired explosive.
‘God I’m knackered,’ Ryan said. He got home during bathtime. My bubble soaked blouse rode up above my waistband; a soft roll of flesh exposed. Eddie chewed on a plastic duck. Holding his tie to the side Ryan kissed Eddie’s cheek. Eddie beamed his first smile of the day.
I crouch down and push one finger through the loop. Beside it there’s a timer, fixed at 30 seconds.
He kissed my forehead. ‘Sorry I’m late. I needed to unwind. Do you want wine?’ he asked. I nodded. Heard him go downstairs, the fridge door, then the TV turning on. Eddie screwed his face up.
A thin silver line runs out from the loop, around the perimeter of the room. I pull the loop and feel resistance. The timer flickers. A wail pierces the monitor. Ryan pushes his pillow over his head.
When I got downstairs the wine was all gone. ‘Did you cook?’ Ryan said. My nipples leaked milk.
I grip the sides of the loop and pull, maintaining tension. The floor peels away from the wall in the corner. There’s a glow of light from beneath. The timer starts timing. 29 seconds. 28.
I burst into tears. ‘I’m so worried about you,’ Ryan said.
Below me is a familiar room. There’s a suctioning sound as I pull the floor back further. Chipped skirting board. A bed. The old me, sleeping, 10lbs lighter.
My ear drums vibrate with Eddie’s screeching.
Hanging my head over the edge of the floor where it curls upwards, I am met with silence. No baby monitor beside my star shaped body. No Ryan either. 12 seconds. 11.
Ryan turns in bed.
There’s a ladder, hanging. I have just seconds to make the decision of a lifetime. All it took then, all I have now.
‘Darling?’ Ryan shouts through Eddie’s screams.
- 5. 4. I swing a leg into the space below me, searching for the top rung with my toe.
Ryan sits up.
3…I climb down the ladder
2…pulling the floor down above me.